CLEVELAND – Markelle Fultz basically received clearance to ramp up his workload.
The 76ers announced in a statement on Saturday that the first-overall pick in June's NBA draft is no longer experiencing soreness in his right shoulder and the scapular muscle imbalance is resolved. As a result, he'll be involved at practice. After "approximately" three weeks, the Sixers medical staff, in conjunction with surgeon Ben Kibler, "will gauge his readiness" to play in a game.
So there's an unlikely return before Christmas. Three weeks from Saturday will be Dec. 30. The Sixers will play the Denver Nuggets that night in the fourth game of a five-game road trip. The trip concludes on Dec. 31 against the Suns in Phoenix.
Fultz recently had his shoulder reevaluated by Kibler at the Shoulder Center at Kentucky in Lexington.
Kibler first diagnosed scapular muscle imbalance in Fultz's initial visit to the center on Oct. 29. A second examination on Nov. 19 revealed that the muscle balance in the rookie's shoulder had improved and the soreness was dissipating.
Fultz had spent time last week at the center rehabilitating under Kibler's supervision. He is expected to have at least one more rehabilitation visit to Kentucky before being re-evaluated in three weeks.
In the meantime, the Sixers will add a shooting component to Fultz's training. But, for the most part, the next three weeks are really about getting Fultz back into playing shape. Prior to the statement, the rookie guard participated in non-contact drills during team settings and was limited to running scripted plays. Now, Fultz will be able to progress into more on-court activity.
The Sixers and Kibler will determine in approximately three weeks how the increased workload has affected Fultz and are expected at that time to make the decision on when he can return. Coach Brett Brown has already said that Fultz will have to pass the foul-shooting eye test before being cleared to play. His shooting form and accuracy took a hit while dealing with the injury.
Fultz has been sidelined since playing against the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 24. Saturday night's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena will mark the 20th game he's missed.
In other injury news, Justin Anderson will miss at least two more weeks with shin splints in his left leg. He'll miss his 10th game on Saturday.